Fuck the Astros, and Other Musings (UPDATED)

So as you’ve no doubt heard by now, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred handed down the punishment to the Houston Astros for the Trashcan Man reenactment game that probably helped them win the World Series in 2017.

For those not already aware, the punishment is as follows: 

One year suspensions for GM Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch, who were both then fired by owner Jim Crane. Unfortunately, these are not like a PED suspension, in that even without a job, both men will rack up time against the suspension and be allowed to return next year. If it was PEDs, they would not start serving until they signed with a new team, which would effectively have acted as a blackball. Missed opportunity right there.

Loss of first- and second-round draft picks each of the next two years.

A fine of $5 million.

Forgetting the facts that no players were actually punished, what we have here is more like an NCAA institutional control penalty, and this punishment is significant. Yeah, Crane will ultimately save about the same amount of money in not paying the salaries of his two fired guys as he will pay in the fine, but there is a blow delivered here that will hamper the future of the franchise. Crane himself got off without suffering ill consequences; it’s not like they’re taking the ring, and I’m willing to acknowledge the difficulty in a guy who ostensibly works for the owners punishing one of his bosses. Fine. It is what it is.

Draft pick loss is sound in a lot of ways, however as we’ve come to see over the course of decades, baseball draft picks are very much a crapshoot. In the Mike Trout draft, for instance, Trout himself was taken 25th. Six players in front of him have an All-Star appearance, and aside from Trout, Zack Wheeler and Stephen Strasburg, the pickings are relatively slim for sound contributors or even guys who stuck around on MLB rosters for sustained periods. Will this hurt? Yeah, surely so. But I would say it won’t hurt as much as it could if this were basketball or football.

Hinch and Luhnow will work again. Make no mistake about that; they’re both guys who have won a title no matter the circumstances, and are considered top minds in their profession. Guys like that get jobs. It’s always a question of how much winning overtakes the principle of not hiring someone with that kind of baggage. I think we will all agree that winning wins every single time without fail.

Not punishing the players involved makes a degree of sense as well, partly because this happened two years ago, and also because there would surely be appeals that would drag these things into hell for who knows how long. Not a productive use of time and assets.

Red Sox manager Alex Cora was heavily implicated in these schemes, and since the Red Sox are next on the block, he is sure to face a stiff punishment as well. Whether Sox ownership will fire him is unknown, but with the standard being set, it could very well happen. Eyes have also turned to Carlos Beltran, who was also heavily implicated in the scheme while a player, but who is now the manager of the @lolMets. It’s such a Mets thing that the guy they just hired was involved in the biggest cheating scandal of our lifetimes this side of PEDs.

This winds up being a significant punch in the face to the Astros, who have now had to make three management-level firings since October. But do you think it bothers Crane to deal with this when he gets to keep the ring? I doubt it. I’m sure it bothers him to some degree, because there will now always be questions, but history will still show they won it all.

This does create questions for the players on the team, though. If you’re Justin Verlander, and say you weren’t involved, how must you feel right now? The only title you have on that resume is now tainted. Will it kill his HOF case? Probably not, but he’s surely lost some votes because of being on this team, innocent or guilty. My best guess it that my former favorite player was guilty to some extent; he went 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA after the trade, and while there are many factors that can lead to that (I am reminded of Doyle Alexander’s 9-0 1.53 ERA in 1987 after the infamous Smoltz deal), it raises my eyebrow. There is no way we will ever know just who was or was not involved, aside from Mike Fiers.

And yeah, Mike Fiers. What a ballsy move he made to stand up and say that this was happening. His fellow players, former teammates or otherwise, are surely more than pissed. It takes a lot of guts to know that you’re gonna be ostracized by a segment of your coworkers for the rest of your career, but go ahead and do the right thing anyway. It will be interesting to watch his employment future unfold.

The big question is, is this enough? It sets a standard, that’s for sure. And there are certainly diverging opinions just from social media reactions as to whether it was too lenient or too harsh, that the only way they’d truly feel the pain would be to take the ring away. Manfred may not even have that power. Surely Crane would rather have kept his guys if things were equal, but the Astros front office has been littered with guys that are well thought-of, and Hinch’s staff, as with all championship staffs, has some highly regarded names that are sure to get their chance at the big chair in the coming years. One of them almost certainly will be promoted now.

The next question that comes up is, what will happen to the Red Sox? Their system was vastly different, we know that. But Alex Cora appears to have brought along the notion of the cheating right along with him, and he will doubtlessly pay a high price. It’s also sucky as he is a minority manager in one of the biggest markets in baseball, which is a big thing. It’s unfortunate that he chose to participate in these schemes rather than trusting himself to be good at his job. And soon we will find out what it will cost him. Stay tuned.

Update, 7:52PM: Cora’s gone.

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6 Comments

  1. The only way any of these players will ever feel bad about what they did is if the press constantly calls them cheaters.

    “Dave, great game today – you went 3-4 with two RBIs. Did you cheat again to get those hits or did you actually play without outside interference?”

  2. I hate the Red Sox so, bwahahahaha, but their fans are already rationalizing it away. Wait, is it the the Sox I hate or sports fans from New England?

    • Getting Doyle was one of the great trades of all time. Both teams got what they wanted and needed. I can’t blame this one tade for the years of Tiger misery that followed.

      I’m never that upset with ‘cheating’ in sports. It always seems to be a moving the goal post argument and only comes about when some one person gets upset that it happened to them regardless if they ever committed the same acts.

      I knew so many using PEDs and trying to get any kind of advantage they could just to advance to the next level it was just part of the experience. I played on the line in football and throwing grass, spitting and grabbing balls was just the game we played. As a player I would expect the coaches and scouts to be tapping everything that goes on during a game. Get that into that week’s gameplan and have the scout team use the opponent’s signals and audibles. Some things are universal like Blue, Yellow or any word with a ‘L’ in it means left and vice versa. There was a great example of this in the SEA/GB game where the D read the audible once it was used and stuffed the play on the line.

      This current MLB story and the rehash of the Patriots’ crimes seems to be about using tech to scout the opponents signals. This is supposed to be different somehow than the OC in the both is marking the opponent’s offensive calls or reading lips through binoculars. I just don’t see the difference and really do feel it is part of the game.

      The NFL made their rules after the fact because a pre-season memo was ignored by some. I don’t know when MLB set their policy and/or rule but it does appear to be like PEDs and after the fact here too. MLB is a joke to me and I will never respect anyone associated with it after Ben Davis tried to win a game with a bunt and was vilified for it. Maybe if the sport didn’t have so many Unwritten Rules® they’d have fewer ‘Cheaters’ in it. Gaylord Perry is in the Hall of Fame after all. What do they really expect?

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